K-1 Rules

a001 01 K 1 RulesK-1 is a martial arts fighting sport which fuses centuries of tradition from martial arts such as karate, kung fu, tae kwon do and kickboxing (the “K”) into a thoroughly modern and electrifying spectator sport, to determine the single best stand-up fighter in the world (the “1″).
K-1 rules allow fighters from many different disciplines to compete, and the elaborate production values of K-1 events makes these extravaganzas a veritable feast for the senses. Since its introduction in 1993 under the direction of founder Master Kazuyoshi Ishii, K-1 has become one of the world’s fastest-growing sports.

Honor and respect rule in the K-1 arena, combatants draw on their finely-honed skills to deliver the artful punches and kicks that have wowed millions and made K-1 the terrific success that it is. You don’t have to be a martial arts aficionado to enjoy K-1: People everywhere enjoy action and excitement, and K-1, the world’s premier fighting sport, delivers.


a002 2007 K 1 RulesIn 2007 K-1 introduces ongoing Title matches in new Super Heavyweight (over 100kg/220lbs) and Heavyweight (70kg/154lbs – 100kg/220lbs) divisions. At year’s end, Semmy Schilt of Holland wears the Super Heavyweight Belt; while Moroccan Badr Hari has the Heavyweight Belt. In World Max action, Dutch fighter Andy Souwer beats Buakaw Por.Pramuk to capture K-1′s under 70kg/154lbs Championship for the second time. In the HERO’S mixed martial arts format series, Brazilian J.Z. Calvan repeats as Middleweight Championship with a victory over Andre Dida.

The K-1 World Grand Prix ’07 Regional Champions are Mighty Mo in the USA; Paul Slowinski in Europe; and Yusuke Fujimoto in Asia. Doug Viney upsets the favorites to take the Las Vegas Repechage Tournament. At the Yokohama Arena Final on December 8, Dutch fighter Semmy Schilt beats compatriot Peter Aerts to capture the World GP Championship for the third consecutive year.

a002 20061 K 1 RulesIn 2006, Paul Slowinski of Australia wins the Oceania GP Tournament in Auckland, K-1′s first major event in New Zealand; Chalid “Die Faust” of Germany emerges victorious in the USA GP in Las Vegas; Yusuke Fujimoto wins the Asia GP in Seoul; and Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland is the best on the night in Amsterdam to take the Europe GP.

In World Max action, Buakaw Por.Pramuk of Thailand becomes the first two-time Champion; while in K-1′s mixed martial arts format HERO’S Series, Yoshihiro Akiyama wins in the Light Heavyweight Championship, and J.Z. Calvan of Brazil takes the Middleweight Belt.

Some 54,800 are on hand at the Tokyo Dome to watch Semmy Schilt defend his World Grand Prix Championship. The Dutchman dispatches veterans Jerome LeBanner, Ernesto Hoost and Peter Aerts en route to victory in a Final that would be broadcast in more than 120 countries.

a002 20051 K 1 RulesK-1′s popularity rockets in South Korea, as the gargantuan Hong-Man Choi beats three fighters (including defending Asia Champ Kaoklai Kaennorsing) to win the K-1 Asian GP in Seoul. Brazilian Glaube Feitosa emerges best in the Americas, winning the USA Grand Prix in Las Vegas in impressive style; and in Paris, Semmy Schilt of the Netherlands powers his way to victory at the European Grand Prix.

Successful Fighting Network events are held round the globe — more than 10,000 fans fill the Globen Arena in Stockholm for the Scandinavian Tournament. Meanwhile, in World Max action, Andy Souwer of the Netherlands takes the Crown; while in K-1′s mixed martial arts format HERO’S Series, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto wins the Final in front of 53,025 at Osaka Dome on New Year’s Eve.

The year’s main event, the World GP Final, attracts a sellout crowd of 58,213 to the Tokyo Dome and is broadcast in more than 90 countries. And for the tenth time in K-1′s 13-year history a Dutch fighter is victorious, as Schilt stays perfect — beating Ray Sefo, Remy Bonjasky and Glaube Feitosa to earn fightsports’ most coveted crown.

a002 2004 K 1 RulesK-1 makes its first foray into Korea, and the sellout crowd sees Thai fighter Kaoklai Kaennorsing win the first K-1 Asian GP. In World Max action, another Thai fighter, Buakaw Por.Pramuk stuns the opposition to take the crown. Mighty Mo is a surprise winner at the Battle at the Bellagio III, and the slugger represents the US at the Tokyo Dome World GP Final. There, Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi makes it to the last bout for the second year running, but Remy Bonjasky is better once again, and repeats as Champion. Dutch fighters have now won nine of the twelve K-1 World GP Championships.

a002 2003 K 1 RulesMasato beats Kraus in the World Max Final and is crowned the first Japanese K-1 Champion.

The emergence of Battle at the Bellagio winner Carter Williams of the United States and Muay Thai fighter Remy Bonjasky of the Netherlands heralds the arrival K-1′s new generation.

With a flashy style featuring flying knees and kicks, the 27 year-old Bonjasky outclasses the competition to take the K-1 World Grand Prix Championship at the Tokyo Dome.

a002 2002 K 1 RulesK-1 introduces its World Max Series, which has a 70kg weight class, and the Dutch fighter Albert Kraus is crowned the first World Max Champion. In the World GP Series, big Bob “The Beast” Sapp of the United States stuns the K-1 world by beating Ernesto Hoost twice.

But an injury stops Sapp at the Tokyo Dome Final, and Hoost goes on to win it all and become K-1′s first-ever four-time World Grand Prix Champion.

a002 2001 K 1 RulesMark Hunt, a hard-punching 27 year-old New Zealander, comes into the Tokyo Dome Final as an underdog.

He defeats veterans Jerome LeBanner, Stefan Leko and Francisco Filho on a super Saturday to pull the biggest upset in K-1 history. He became the sport’s first non-European World Grand Prix Champion.

a002 2000 K 1 RulesThe new millennium and K-1 sees unprecedented expansion and popularity in Europe and the Americas.

At the Tokyo Dome Final, yet another sellout crowd watches as Dutch fighter Ernesto Hoost successfully defends his World Grand Prix Championship.

K-1 Grand Prix

Throughout the year there are 6 K-1 World Grand Prix tournaments and 4 main K-1 MAX events. The winners will qualify to the K-1 and the K-1 MAX WGP Final Eliminations held in Osaka Dome, Japan. From there the final top 8 fighters will compete in the K-1 World GP Finals in Tokyo Dome, Japan.

Every year there are dozens of other K-1 qualifying tournaments and preliminaries all over the world.

K-1 Rules & Tactics


The principal objective of K-1 is to win either by a knockout or by a split or unanimous decision. Victories are usually achieved by kicks to the legs, head or midsection or using traditional boxing punches, such as the jabs, hooks or uppercuts.

Classic defensive boxing stance is rather ineffective against leg kicks, and fighters are more or less forced to constantly move and counterattack. The traditional clinch, often used in boxing is not allowed which has lead to a very high K.O. ratio in the K-1, since the fighers in other stand-up fighting sports often use the clinch to gain time to recover if they have been hit. Clinching is also a big part of traditional thaiboxing and the lack of this is basically the biggest difference between thaiboxing and the K-1 rule-system. If you grab an opponent with the intent of using a knee-technique you have to let go after one single blow. In thaiboxing, the fighters often hold on to each other to continuously use their knees and elbows.

Due to the combination of rules and techniques that are allowed and not, the common low kick has time and again proven itself to be one of the most efficient techniques in the K-1 fighter arsenal. Even world class boxers have many times become completely pacified during their attempts to enter the K-1 fighting circuit successfully due to the extreme damage a low kick can deliver to the leg. Some of the best low kick performers in the world are found in several classic full contact karate styles, such as kyokushin and seidokan karate, the latter from which the K-1 origins. This has also lead to great success within the K-1 among fighters with traditional karate background, Andy Hug being the first K-1 fighter with a karate background to win the K-1 and 3-year consecutive champion Semmy Schilt also comes from a full contact karate style known as Ashihara where low kicks are prioritized as technique in competitions. However the biggest success belongs to muay thai fighters wich is proved by names of K-1 champions Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjansky, Buakaw Por.Promuk. Kickboxing is also a common combat style in K-1.

The rules themselves are constantly adapting and changing to create a competition which allows for participants of different styles to fight in a fairer manner, although these rules accommodate kickboxing rules as the main basis.

K-1 Rules

  • Each match is three or five rounds in duration, with each round lasting three minutes.
  • The match can end by Knockout, Technical Knockout, Decision, Disqualification, Draw or No Contest.
  • Both the referee and the ring doctor have full authority to stop the fight.
  • The fight is scored by three judges on a ten-point must system (The winner of each round receives ten points, and the loser receives nine or less. If the round is even, both competitors receive ten points).
  • If there is a draw after three rounds, the judges’ scores are thrown out and one or two extra three-minute rounds are contested. The judges’ decision will then come from the scoring of each extra round only. If, after the extra round(s), there is still a draw, the judges will decide a winner based on the flow of the entire match, considering even the slightest difference. A fight can only end in a draw if both fighters go down at the same time and cannot get up, or in the case of accidental injury in the late stages of the contest.
  • The three-knockdown rule is in effect (three knockdowns in a round results in a technical knockout).
  • The mandatory eight count is in effect (the referee must count to at least “eight” on all knockdowns).
  • The standing eight count is in effect (the referee has the right to declare a knockdown on a fighter who appears to be in a dangerous condition to continue in the match).
  • A fighter can be saved by the bell only in the last round.

In K-1 single elimination tournament matches:

  • Each match is three rounds in duration.
  • The three-knockdown rule becomes a two-knockdown rule for all matches except the final.
  • One or two reserve fights are held prior to the single elimination matches. If for any reason a fighter who wins and advances through the brackets is unable to continue, a reserve match competitor, or the fighter’s opponent from the most recent match, takes his place. There are certain exceptions to this rule (i.e. a fighter who lost a match by knockout might not be eligible to replace another fighter).

Source: K-1 Website


The following actions in K-1 are considered fouls:

  • Using the head or elbow to deliver a blow
  • Attacking the opponent in the groin
  • Delivering wrestling or judo throwing or submission techniques
  • Thumbing, choking or biting the opponent
  • Punching the opponent in the throat
  • Attacking the opponent while he is down or in the process of getting up
  • Attacking the opponent after the referee calls a break
  • Holding the ropes
  • Using offensive language to the referee
  • Attacking the back of the head with a punch
  • Attempting to cause the opponent to fall out of the ring
  • Voluntarily exiting the ring during the course of a match
  • Attacking an opponent who turns around and shows his back (unless the opponent loses his will to fight)
  • Delivering a backspin blow in an unauthorized area
  • Charging inside the opponent’s arms with the head held low (inducing a head-butt)
  • Fighting in a passive manner (without attacking), including continuous holding and clinching
  • Attacking more than once while holding the opponent’s kicking leg, or while holding the opponent’s neck with both hands

A fighter is penalized as follows:

  • Caution – verbal reprimand by the referee
  • Warning – fighter is shown a yellow card
  • Point Deduction – fighter is shown a red card

Two cautions result in one warning. Two warnings result in a point deduction, and three point deductions in one round can result in a disqualification.

A red card is shown automatically if a fighter commits a foul with malicious intent.

Source: K-1 Website

Qualification & match-ups

The system of K-1 is changing from time to time as a response to the growing popularity in different parts of the world.

In the beginning of the K-1 series it was a single tournament in Japan with fighters participating by invitation. By today K-1 has branched out to all parts of the world and has been divided into preliminary Grand Prix-s, Fighting Networks and qualifiers. There are six regional GPs on all continents (except Africa and Antarctica) and all of them have the exclusive right to send the winners to the Final Elimination. Preliminaries are organized in countries with minor attendance and consists of tournaments where the winners qualify to the regional GPs.

Until 2006 K-1 wanted to gain popularity in the United States therefore two of the GPs were in the U.S., however only a few Americans have been qualified for the Finals. This situation changed with 2006 and one of the American GPs was relocated to Auckland, New Zealand. Also the K-1 Paris GP lost its qualifying right in favor of Amsterdam.

The Final Elimination is an event where the 16 participants compete for the final eight spots in the Finals. The line-up is made up of 6 new GP winners, the eight finalists from the previous year’s Final, plus 2 fighters selected by the K-1 organization. In 2006 there was some minor modifications because Peter Aerts was substituted by Glaube Feitosa who reached the final match, therefore he was included in the 2006 Final Elimination.


Usually the combatants of the Elimination 16-men 8-match super fights are paired by drawing but at the Tokyo Dome it’s a different case. The whole event is combined with a ceremony and a press conference and reminds of a lottery show, with the fighters pulling a ball from a glass bowl with a number on it. The balls represent numbers 1 to 8, which determines the fighters’ order in choosing a position from a giant tournament tree figure standing in front of a drawn bracket. The fighter with the number 1 ball will choose first “empty” section. This procedure goes on until all the fighters have selected their first quarterfinal opponent. This system gives a freedom of choice and tactics to the fighters with the help of a little luck.

Restructuring the system

In 2007 because of the monopoly-like reign of Semmy Schilt the K-1 organization introduced two new title belts as well as restructured the qualification system. Two new titles can be acquired through single fights. One was created for the heavyweights under 100 kg fighters and the other for the super-heavyweights. Meanwhile the well-known 8-men tournament system stays and the GP titles will be still handed out.

The new tournament qualification system will be: the 8 finalists of last year, 4 new Grand Prix winners and two new single title champions – if some of the fighters holds more than one title, then the extra ones will be chosen by K-1. Finally the last two spots will be selected by the K-1 team and the votes of the fans from around the world..”.